California prison officials say they are working to improve inmates’ access to modern technology, while ensuring they won’t abuse the changes.
“Technology in prisons can provide inmates education, diversions from harmful behaviors, and a lifeline to family support that can ease the emotional stress associated with incarceration,” according to Jason Shueh’s Feb.8 story on the statescoop.com website.
“Our job is to figure out how to control it,” said Russ Nichols, chief information officer for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Projects are now underway to expand controlled connectivity throughout the system, Nichols said.
Nichols met recently with state officials and technology vendors. He told them that in some facilities inmates are already using eReaders that are not connected to the Internet to assist with their education.
“Putting more electronic devices will cut down on prison violence”
Nichols said his office is “debunking that assumption with a vision that embraces connectivity as a key driver of public safety and rehabilitation,” Shueh wrote.
In addition to the eReaders purchased for education, CDCR has partnered with JPay to allow inmates the option to purchase their own eReaders for personal and educational use.
Nichols said his goal is to offer a rehabilitative environment through technology in prisons. It can provide inmates education, diversions from harmful behaviors, and a lifeline to family support.
“We can use that device for educational purposes, let them sit on their bunk and take an anger management class or let them take a class to earn credit to shorten their sentence,” Nichols said.
“Putting more electronic devices will cut down on prison violence, because it gives an inmate an opportunity to be useful to society” agreed San Quentin inmate L. Scott.
Inmate Troy Dunmore from San Quentin added, “It’s a great opportunity for offenders because it helps save space and time. It’s more convenient.”
To those who object to inmates possessing this type of technology, Nichols said, “Incarceration must be more than punitive to be an effective form of rehabilitation,”
Looking toward the future, and his vision for the department’s use of technology, Nichols said, “We are trying to make sure that no matter where you are in a prison, you have connectivity…I want it available to every staff member, to every contractor or private company that comes in for any reason.”
He also touts better security for the prison facilities by using connectivity, according to StateScoop.com. Nichols said the department is researching how increasing technology use can enhance efficiency in areas such as surveillance and parole operations.
He added his staff has equipped all clinical areas of California prisons with internet access.